D.C. is fudging the books big time according to the CBO.
Only in Greece, can you wipe out €100 billion of debt, and have the new debt that replaces it trade at 20% of face value. So 85.8% of Greek law bonds “participated”. The government intends to use the Collective Action Clause to force the holdouts to participate. It is unclear if the government has actually used the clause already, or just intends to. Once they use the CAC, that will be a Credit Event for the CDS. English law bonds saw participation less than 70%. The deadline has been extended until March 23rd. As discussed all along, the English Law bonds gave some protection to holders and that clearly gave them the confidence to hold out. Given the Event of Default covenants, and the right to accelerate, some bondholders may push to accelerate after the Greek law bonds get CAC’d. The market now knows that the PSI will be “successful” and a massive amount of debt will be wiped out, but the new bonds are being quoted “when and if issued” at prices ranging from the high teens to mid twenties. Why are the new bonds so weak? SUBORDINATION!
While anyone (as we did) with an abacus and five-minutes of spare time from hitting the buy-button could have figured out that post-PSI 'new' GGBs would trade down hard, it is perhaps worth looking at some sensitivity analysis on both the shape of the Greek curve and the level (as well as the value of GDP warrants) before jumping on any bid from BNP in the grey. Of course, excitement over 80-90% participation rate rumors are somewhat irrelevant as CACs are as inevitable as hearing the phrase 'money-on-the-sidelines' on CNBC every day and whether its 77% or 97% is largely irrelevant - despite our equity market's ebullience. Morgan Stanley provides some color on the new GGBs, which they expect to trade at least 200bps wide of Portugal and with an inverted curve expecting prices to stabilize in the mid-20s (with technicals in the short-term pushing prices below 20). The GDP warrants are estimated at a fair-value around 1c and if the Argentine framework is any evidence, this will be heavily discounted (read ignored) by the market. All-in-all, not exactly positive but still buy stocks because 90% sounds like a good number!
Since Draghi's second savior LTRO, European markets have been flip-flopping gradually lower. These four charts do not seem to suggest a market that is confident about tail-risk containment, sovereign firewalls, or an orderly restructuring by Greece. Sovereign spreads are broadly higher (Spain, France, and Portugal the most), CDS spreads are underperforming (as protection is sought and CDS seen having value as a hedge), non-financial and financial credit is notably weaker, LTRO Stigma remains notably wide, stocks are broadly lower, and the EURUSD is back at 'fair' with its swap spreads (removing its over-pessimism). There has been no change in the price trends for UK-law versus Greek-law GGBs (i.e. noone believes this is over) and even if it were, a renewed focus on growth is hardly a market positive given lending trends and macro prints in Europe recently.
Being an intrinsically destabilizing force, financialization led to the global financial crisis of 2008. Central banks went into panic mode, printing and injecting trillions of dollars of new infectious material into the global economy in the hopes of sparking a new even grander cycle of financialization. But you can't create a new cycle of plague when the hosts are either dead or already infected. The world has run out of sectors that can be financialized; that plague has already killed or infected every corner of the global economy. Ironically, all the central banks' attempts to reinflate the speculative leverage-debt bubble are only hastening the disease's decline and collapse. The global markets are cheering today because the plague-riddled corpse of Greek debt has been turned into a grotesque marionette that is being made to "dance" by the European Central Bank before an audience that has been told to applaud loudly, even though the ghastly, bizarre spectacle is transparently phony. Greek debt is already dead; it can't be reinfected and killed again, and neither can the debts of Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy et al. Housing is also already dead, though the still-warm body is still twitching in certain markets around the world.
What a difference 24 hours makes, or 48 for that matter. After an almost 2% decline on Tuesday on virtually no news, the market looks set to get all that back and more - all since about 10:30 yesterday - also on no real news. PSI results continue to come in. It looks like it will beat 75%. It seems that all banks and most regulated entities are voting in favor of PSI - as expected. It looks like Greece and the EU will discuss the results tomorrow. I expect CAC's to get done on Monday. It would be surprising, and controversial, if the don't use the CAC's and pay some holdouts at par. After Greece walks away from over $140 billion of debt, it will be hard for other countries to resist that temptation. Now that politicians realize they can make the banks do whatever they want, they will be tested to use that power.
It would appear, given the actions and rhetoric of the last week or so, that global central bank printing presses have been switched to 'pause' mode and allowed to cool as implicit inflation 'energy' rears its economic-growth-dragging head around the world (as the bears told us earlier). Whether this leads to a slow grind higher or a tactical correction is the question Morgan Stanley considers in a recent note and their answer is that bullish sentiment, 'under-appreciated' risks, and 'tranquil' markets justify a cautious asset allocation. The focus has switched much more to growth, likely why we have not seen a greater deterioration post-printing yet, but this leaves the market much more sensitive to data surprises (as the backstop of QE has been removed for now). Simply put, we tend to agree with MS' view (given our previous discussions of the volatility surface) that as event and growth risks linger, and with valuations no longer cheap in most cases, expectations of a continued grind higher without a tactical correction are overly confident.
Now that the hype of LTRO is over (for now) people are starting to focus on the details and some of the potential consequences. This is a first cut based on bits and pieces from various LTRO documents released by the ECB. We haven’t seen anything that resembles a document fully describing the current LTROs, but are trying to find it, and will refine this analysis as more details come to light. Between early maturity possibilities, the floating rate nature of the loan, and now the variation margin we discussed last night, it seems LTRO may rightfully be the driver of the 'stigma' extensively noted here previously.
Not many websites, analysts or authors have both the balls/temerity & the analytical honesty to take Goldman on. Well, I say.... Let's dance! This isn't a collection of soundbites from the MSM. This is truly meaty, hard hitting analysis for the big boys and girls. If you're easily offended or need the 6 second preview I suggest you move on.
Markets are exhibiting very risk-averse behaviour ahead of the US open, with European equity markets making heavy losses across the board with flows into the safer assets. This follows Greece dominating the headlines once again, with a report from the IIF warning of dangerous ramifications for Europe should Greece default. These reports got the European session off to a bad start, with losses made throughout the morning. Market talk of a delay in the Greek debt swap deal deadline has also been circulating, however this was swiftly denied by the Greek Debt Agency chief as well as the Greek Finance Ministry, although this failed to reassure markets and they continue on a downward trend into the US open. Eurozone GDP data released earlier in the session showed a contraction in the last quarter of 2011, although expected, this has reignited concerns of a recession in Europe. The ECB have recorded yet another record level of deposits from European banks in its overnight lending facility, with institutions depositing EUR 827.5bln on Monday night.
We’re fast approaching the end of the line here. It’s clear that the EU is out of ideas and is fast approaching the dreaded messy default they’ve been putting off for two years now. Indeed, Greece is just the trial run for what’s coming towards Italy and Spain in short order. NO ONE can bail out those countries. And they must already be asking themselves if it’s worth even bothering with the whole economically crushing austerity measures/ begging for bailouts option. Which means… sooner or later, Europe is going to have to “take the hit.”
For those who are in a hurry today, the bottom line is that Japan is in serious trouble right now and is a top candidate to be the next black swan. Here are the elements of difficulty that concern me the most, each one serving to reduce Japan's economic and financial stability:
- The total shutdown of all 54 nuclear plants, leading to an energy insufficiency
- Japan's trade deficit in negative territory for the first time in decades, driven largely by energy imports
- A budget deficit that is now 56% larger than revenues (!!)
- Total debt standing at a whopping 235% of GDP
- A recession shrinking Japan's economy at an annual rate of 2.3%
- Renewed efforts underway to debase the yen
As I wrote a shortly after the earthquake in March 2011, Japan is facing an economic meltdown. If it is not careful, it may well face a currency meltdown, too. These things take time to play out, but now almost exactly a year after the devastating earthquake of 2011, the difficulties for Japan are mounting -- as expected.
Okay, we don’t know if that is a good translation of Dead Bank Walking into Portuguese, but we didn’t think zombie banks was sufficient. As Portugal's sovereign spreads have risen by 200bps in the last 3 weeks and now trade at a wholly unsustainable 1200bps over Bunds, we thought it worth looking at how large (and under-capitalized) the Portuguese banking system was. Perhaps more critically just how zombified they were with regards to their Central Bank liquidity needs - the picture is not encouraging. As tensions continue to mount internally, it seems the LTRO's lull should be used to wipe out the weak banks or recap the less-than-dismal banks as that is the only real firewall. With the Greek PSI/restructuring dangling in the dust, it seems increasingly likely (as the IIF just noted) that Portugal is next and imminent given market pricing, despite the 'uniqueness' of their Hellenic neighbors.
While everyone was busy ruminating on how little impact a Greek default would have on the global economy, the IIF - the syndicate of banks dedicated to the perpetuation of the status quo - was busy doing precisely the opposite. In a Confidential Staff Note that was making the rounds in the past 2 weeks titled "Implications of a Disorderly Greek Default and Euro Exit" the IIF was doing its best Hank Paulson imitation in an attempt to scare the Bejeezus out of potential hold outs everywhere, by "quantifying" the impact form a Greek failure. The end result: "It is difficult to add all these contingent liabilities up with any degree of precision, although it is hard to see how they would not exceed €1 trillion." In other words, hold out at your own peril. Of course, what the IIF does not understand, is that for hedge funds it is precisely this kind of systemic nuisance value that makes holding out that much more valuable, as they understand all too well that they have all the cards on the table. And while a Greek default could be delayed even if full PSI was not attained by Thursday, it would simply make paying off the holdouts the cheapest cost strategy for the IIF, for Europe and for the world's banks. Unless of course, the IIF is bluffing, in which case the memorandum is not worth its weight in 2020 US Treasurys.